Category Archives: gratitude

He Is For You.

Originally written and published in The Grip January 2014.

Romans 8:31 says, “What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” Minsters quote this all of the time. Heck, you’ve probably posted it as your Facebook status before. But, what does this truly mean? If God is for you, who can be against you? Does it mean exactly what it says? That, He is for you? Always? If this true, then that means ALL moments are for you. Because, God is in all moments.

That interruption in your day you weren’t expecting. That moment was for you. The cereal spilled all over the counter. That moment was for you. The trip back to your child’s school, because he forgot his lunch. That moment was for you. That busted pipe over the recent freeze. That moment was for you. Your spouse walking out the door and leaving you a single mother. That moment was for you.

That amazing sunset you paused to watch. That moment was for you. Witnessing the birth of your child. That moment was for you. Your littlest putting his nose to your nose and saying, “I love you, Mommy.” That moment was for you. Enjoying that incredible dinner with good friends. That moment was for you. Falling in love again. That moment was for you.

It doesn’t mean God caused any of the difficult circumstances. But, He as certainly been in them. And, in all moments. Because, He is for you. And, when you can wrap your head around the fact that if God is for you, then all moments are for you….then, you can learn to say, “Nothing goes wrong in my world.” But, all moments have been for me. On Christmas Day, when my husband and I realized our hot water had been leaking and ruined our downstairs floors….Neither of us became upset. Neither of us said, “We can’t catch a break” or “just our luck.” Neither of us felt attacked by a devil. It’s just life. Things break. And, instead of focusing on that inconvenience, our thoughts turned to gratitude for a wonderful first Christmas on our farm. When my oldest had a lot of questions about his dad leaving, I explained to him that if his dad could go back, he would make a different choice. He responded, “I wouldn’t want him to. Because, then I wouldn’t have my Daddy Kris and my little sister and brother.” Oh, if we could all see life’s moments as a child.

My most difficult moments have been my greatest teachers on forgiveness. My most beautiful moments have been my greatest teachers on thankfulness. And, I know He has been in them all. Because, He is always, always for me. And, He is always for you.

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Filed under God Stuff, gratitude, life, Life Experiences, Spiritual Journey

The Hard Places.

“Every challenging situation becomes an opportunity for me to trust Him – to obey, to learn, to grow, to rely more on His grace.” – Christina Fox

I read this quote recently and it has ministered to my own spirit for the past several days. Adjusting to living on the farm has been, well, an adjustment. We labor more than we ever have. Our drive to work is longer. Heck, our drive really anywhere is longer. It’s just harder. But, just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Or a wrong decision was made. Sometimes, things are just hard. And, hard is okay.

It’s in the hard places we truly grow. Growth is impossible without something pushing us forward. Trusting God isn’t necessary unless we have something to trust Him in. We don’t need His grace when things are always easy. We can’t be an over-comer without something to overcome.

Instead of focusing on what “seems” wrong about the place we are in and focusing on how hard things may be, we have to focus on what is good and right while we are in that place. We have to ask God, “What do you want to work in my life through this?” For example, instead of focusing my thoughts on the extra work that comes from taking care of horses, I am changing the way I look at it. I watch my daughter carry two buckets of food and walk across a field to the gate. I imagine what God is working in her as she feeds these large animals. What is He speaking to her spirit on those walks across the field? What does she hear in those quiet moments alone with God’s creation? What if she learns something in these walks that rescues her heart when she is forty? What if?

God doesn’t waste one day of our lives. He uses everything for our growth. For our good. For our destiny. I love living on the farm. But, if I focus on what is hard, I will become bitter instead of better. If I focus on every positive, life-giving thing it provides, I will not only fall in love with every part of it, I will grow. I will be fulfilled. I will be content. I will be full of joy. This is why James said, “For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” (James 1:3-4)

He works all things for your good. Even the hard places. So, begin thanking God for them. It is in these places, we become better. We become complete.

 

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Filed under gratitude, Life Experiences, Spiritual Journey

Temporary.

Our greatest battles usually have little to do with our circumstances. We fight our greatest battles in our mind. I've been fighting my own for the past several days. I know better than to rely on what I'm feeling than to rely on Him. I also know that all feelings remain neutral until I give meaning to them.

 

I know these things.

 

Yet, still I found it easier to embrace the feelings. Thus, engage in battle….in my mind.

 

Yesterday, I celebrated my beautiful mother's birthday. And, even on a day that should be completely about her, she ministered to me.

 

“What you're feeling is temporary,” she said. “You won't always feel the way you're feeling right now. Remember that.”

 

Temporary.

 

And, yet I found myself trading a thankful heart…..enjoying time with my family….all the GOOD stuff in my life…..I traded it all for focusing on a feeling that is temporary.

 

Then, she said, “Now, begin thanking God for everything good thing in your life. Don't stop thanking Him.”

 

And, THAT is the key to winning this battle. Thankfulness is the key to winning every battle. Not trying to figure out the how's or the whys.

 

Thankfulness.

 

Don't take your eyes off of what you already have, because you can't see what you want to see when you want to see it.

 

What you're feeling right now is temporary. Don't lose sight of what's eternal. Let thankfulness be your predominant thought today.

 

Today, I'm thanking God for this beautiful woman.

 

 

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Filed under God Stuff, gratitude

The Thief of Joy.

Article written for The Grip:

I recently read this Theodore Roosevelt quote on Pinterest, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”  Isn’t it though?  And, keeping up with the Joneses seems so much more exasperating with the access of social networks like Twitter and Facebook.  We look at their beautiful home.  Her beautiful children.  Their extravagant vacation.  His new car.  She really seems to have it all together.  How do things always fall into place so perfectly for them?  How did their kids get so perfect?  Why can’t I be that kind of mother? Dang, their life is so much more glamorous than mine!

We look at our own lives and wish we had theirs.

I’ve done it on different levels before.  I can remember reading another writer’s blog once and suddenly feeling very inadequate as a writer.  She was just good.  Really good.  And, funny.  Man, if I could come up with the funny one-liners like she does.  How does she do that?

Then there is the girl who is always disciplined to eat the right foods and go to the gym.  I’m not going to lie.  I have coveted another girl’s disciplined habits and six pack abs before.  But clearly, I love Junior Mints more than I love impressive abdominal muscles.

Don’t we often want what we don’t have?  If only I had her sense of style.  If only I had an eye for decorating my house like she does.  If only I had a job like his.  If only I had a personality like hers.  If only, if only.

We can’t trade places with any of the people we envy.  And, you know what?  It wouldn’t fix us if we could.  Then, we would simply take on a new set of problems.  A new set of difficult circumstances.  A new set of struggles.  And, the truth is, everything isn’t always as perfect as it seems.  None of us really know the struggles of another.

Comparison robs us of contentment.  It robs us of joy.  The solution is a better understanding of who we are in Him.  It’s gaining a proper perspective of our own life.  Not too long ago I had let a little resentment set in when I said, “I haven’t had a full 24 hours away from my children in nearly seven months.”  I gained perspective when I did a heart check.  My new perspective became, “I haven’t missed a day with my children in nearly seven months.”

Perspective changes everything.  So, does giving up our right to say “it isn’t fair.”  Because, we really lose the right to say, “it isn’t fair” until we have suffered on the cross as much as Christ suffered.  When my good friend, Cindy Beall, was asked to respond to God not being fair once, she replied, “I’m glad He isn’t.  I need His mercy.”

I may never be as creative a writer as some, but I will do my best to hear God and pen His words when I do write.  I may never be able to pick out the perfect draperies like my friend.  But, I can be thankful I have a friend who can help me.  I may never have perfect children.  But, I can thank God He sees them that way.

And, I thank God that He sees you and I that way.  Perfect.  Blameless.  Without guilt.  Because, when He looks at us, He sees us through the blood of His Son.  Who paid a price that really wasn’t His to pay.  Now, that wasn’t fair.

Let gratitude and perspective fill you today and every day.  Let the knowledge that YOU are fearfully and wonderfully made by the Creator of the Universe bring you peace.  Know He is always working ALL things for your good.  And, rest in this truth:

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11

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Filed under God Stuff, gratitude, life, Writing

Ten Years.

In many ways it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long.  In so many other ways, it really does.  Ten years ago at this time, I was two months pregnant with John Henry.  And, his dad left.

I guess I never imagined I would be in that place.  I certainly never saw myself divorced.  I never thought I’d be a single mother.  It was the single most heart-breaking, devastating time in my life.  Words were said that pierced me.  Actions taken that floored me.  And, I couldn’t imagine that my life would ever be restored back to where it was.

I spent the next few months busying myself with work, getting ready for a baby, and involving myself in the community.  I traveled to Chicago to an Arts Conference hosted by Willow Creek Church.  I headed up the campaign for my uncle who was running for County Commissioner.  He won, by the way.  And, I joined with city leaders in putting together a Memorial Service for the one year anniversary of 9/11.   And, in my down time, I cried.

But, I also prayed.

I prayed scriptures over Bryan’s life every single night of my pregnancy.  I prayed blessings over him.  In the middle of my pain, I cried out to the Redeemer.  And, I released forgiveness little by little until I no longer carried any anger or resentment.

I was still heartbroken.  There were times I would feel sorry for myself.  I’d cry the ugly cry.  My countenance would be less than inviting.  I remember during one of my pity parties, my dad told me, “You never know how you’re going to feel tomorrow.”  Of course, I knew how I was going to feel.  Exactly like I was feeling at that moment.

Until one day, you wake up, and the weight of it all seems a little less.  The hurt isn’t quite as painful.  And, before you know it, you are smiling.  And, you are staring into the eyes of a little blue-eyed baby boy who has changed everything.

September 24, 2002, I held John Henry.  I looked at my parents and said, “My world is right.”  It was.  The hurt was still there.  But it became less.  A few months later, Kris Takle flew into my life.  Literally.  Six months later?  We were married.  Six months after that?  We were pregnant with Anna Takle.

And, now ten years later?  My life is full.

It is redeemed.

I never believe that divorce is God’s best for one’s life.  But, I do believe He is a God of redemption and will make good out of messes.  I will never write about the nit and the grit of the words said or the actions during it all.  I really see no need, honestly.  It’s not where I live.  I don’t ever want it printed and posted to hurt John Henry or Bryan.

As for Bryan, he has allowed God to work in his life.  He is a great father to John Henry.  He is a great friend to Kris.  And, Kris is a great friend to him.  We celebrate holidays together.  We have vacationed together.  We aren’t “normal.”  We really didn’t think “normal” was working.  So, we just do things differently.

I would defend Bryan’s name until my last breath on earth.  Because, he is a good man.  And, I am forever grateful to him for John Henry Landreth.  I have learned more about compassion and forgiveness because of that little boy than I ever imagined possible.

John Henry is a constant reminder to me of how GOOD God is.

Anna and Jett are constant reminders of His redemption.

And, Kris Takle.  Well, you know what he is.

The one who made my heart beat fast again.

It’s been a good ten years.

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Filed under disappointment, divorce, gratitude, Life Experiences, Love, Motherhood, prayer, Writing

Next Year, I Might Say, “Be Mine.”

Can I just be honest and say that Valentine’s Day is my least favorite holiday of the year?  I don’t mean to be a love humbug.  I mean, I love love and all.  I just don’t like using it to celebrate Kris.  And, he is not allowed to buy me a Valentine’s Day gift.  I know this makes me odd.  And, I’m okay with that.  I’m sure Kris is, too.  Not to worry about my littles.  We certainly lavish on them on this day of “Be My Valentine.”

So, instead of making the day about recognizing how much I love Kris, I pick a person really needing to feel some love to bless.  I started this tradition two years ago.  It’s kind of given me a reason to look forward to the holiday.

However, yesterday ended up being one of my favorite days of the year.  No expensive gifts.  No over-priced roses.  But, a string of texts, notes, and unexpected surprises made me so thankful for the relationships in my life.  Several members of Eagles Way Church surprised the staff with the most heartfelt, delicious lunch at the office.  Kris surprised me….and I do mean surprised me, by cleaning the house before he took off into the wild blue yonder.  An unexpected text from a friend simply expressing her appreciation broke me.  And, then?  A surprise knock at my door with none other than my father bringing me my favorite hummus and pita bread.

I spent the rest of the evening playing Pictionary on the Xbox with my big kids and laughing at this littlest kid while he saw himself being videoed.

Why do videos start and stop on the most awkward of facial expressions?  Have. Mercy.

Anyway, my heart swelled with an immense gratitude for the people in my life.  A gratitude that I get to wake up every morning to the most incredible beings in my home.  A gratitude that I get to be Kris Takle’s wife.  A gratitude that I get to be a mother.  A gratitude that I get to work at the greatest church on the planet.  A gratitude that I get to be a pastor.

I am so rich.  So rich in relationships.  Rich in love.  Rich in contentment.

So, perhaps, after days like yesterday, I just might become a fan of Cupid.  After all, I am definitely a fan of lunch.  And, a clean house.  And, sweet messages.  And, hummus.  And Eagles Way Church.

And, Kris Takle.

And, these little love bugs.

 

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Filed under giving, gratitude, Kid Stuff, Love, Marriage, Motherhood, Relationships

The Truth About Resentment.

Truth is.

I’ve had one million things to write about.

Truth is.

I’ve taken zero time to write anything.

It’s easy to get out of a daily routine.  A routine of exercise.  A routine of going to church on Sundays.  A routine of weekly date nights.  A routine of family devotions. 

A routine of writing.  Okay, and so a routine of exercise. 

And, I almost didn’t write this post.  I just knew I needed to.  I knew I needed to write down how I had this moment tonight where I found myself beginning to feel resentful.  Resentful for having so little time to myself.  Resentful that I am the one who picks up behind little people.  And, ahem, big people.  Resentful that my day is usually consumed with doing things for other people.

Resentful.

So, I prayed.

And, as quickly as that resentment came pulsing through my veins, it left.  Really.  It did.  I realized that usually when resentment begins creeping into my life, it is the direct result of me failing to spend time alone with my Father.  My Friend.  I can spend a large portion of my day studying scriptures and researching words like “faith.”  It’s all head knowledge.  Granted a lot of it goes directly to my heart, and that’s all good.  But it’s not relational.  Not in the way He wants and not in the way I need.  And, it’s that relational part that keeps me in check.  Well, it keeps my attitude in check.  If you don’t believe me, ask Kris Takle. 

Or not.

And, the truth is.

My life is not my own anyway. 

So, what could I possibly be resentful about?

Now, my resentment has turned into gratitude.  Gratitude for a Father who doesn’t let me stay in a crappy state of mind.  Gratitude for a Friend who will let me vent, but then speak truth into my life seconds later. 

Because, He loves me.  And, the only appropriate response is to love Him right back. 

With time spent with Him.

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Filed under God Stuff, gratitude, Relationships, Spiritual Journey